1. A tangled skein of yarn
2. A la recherche du temps perdu
3. Variations: El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan; Var. 1; Var. 2, “una red cresciente de tiempos divergentes, convergentes, y paralelos.”
4. Each life is an encyclopedia
5. Diptych: A grotesque drollery with moments of desperation; La disarmonia prestabilita
6. accumulations of the past and the vertigo of the void
Program Note Memos is a book of short piano pieces, each titled after an essay in Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. In each of his essays in the collection Calvino identifies a critical value in literature and explores it by citing a dizzying array of writings from the Classics to the modern, from Latin to Arabic to modern European languages. It has often seemed to me that these values: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity, were well suited to music as well as literature.
Multiplicity was written for my longtime friend and colleague Christopher Adler. In Calvino’s essay of the same name, works are cited that exemplify multiplicity through their length, complexity, formal innovation, and exhaustive, encyclopedic detail. Calvino celebrates the representation of a multiplicity of relationships, between people, ideas, and epistemologies. “Overambitious projects may be objectionable in many fields, but not in literature,” he writes; and while some of the works he mentions are of epic dimensions (such as Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu), he also cites his own If on a winter’s night a traveler as an example of a ‘hypernovel’ in which each of its relatively brief 10 chapters is a new beginning. He also discusses Borges’ short story “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” (The Garden of Forking Paths) as an early (c. 1941) setting of what has come to be commonly known as the multiverse. Narrative density is not incompatible with brevity.
It is with that in mind that I decided to respond to Calvino’s essay with a series of miniatures, each with different compositional approaches and formal strategies. While I make no attempt to quote or reference earlier musics in this piece, I have embedded a metrical structure that is derived from Messiaen’s durational series for his “Livre d’orgue I," one of many rather obscure architectural features in this work.